Updated: Jul 18
Effective communication is the key to success, especially in leadership. * "Open rebuke is better than hidden love." - Proverbs 27:5. * On Hayom Yom for 27 Tammuz.
In the world of leadership, it is often said that effective communication is the key to success. A leader who possesses the ability to express themselves clearly and directly has a profound impact on their followers. Such directness is not rooted in harshness or insensitivity but rather in a genuine desire to guide and uplift. This notion is beautifully exemplified in the encounter between the Alter Rebbe and a brilliant scholar in the Hayom Yom entry for 27 Tammuz.
We are introduced to a scholar of exceptional talent and profound understanding who dedicated himself to the study of Chassidus. In a remarkable display of candor, the scholar asked the Rebbe during their first private audience (yechidus): "Rebbe, what do I lack?" The Rebbe's response was equally direct, as he acknowledged the scholar's God-fearing nature and scholarly achievements. However, the Rebbe identified a crucial area for improvement, urging the scholar to rid himself of chametz, the symbol of swelling pride like fully leavened bread, symbolizing self-awareness and arrogance. He should instead embrace matza, representing self-nullification and humility.
This direct response from the Rebbe may seem bold or even jarring to some, but it resonates deeply with timeless teachings found in our Torah sources. In the Book of Proverbs, we encounter the verse: "Open rebuke is better than hidden love" (Proverbs 27:5). This wisdom reminds us that genuine care for another person involves being honest and forthright. Rather than concealing our concerns or genuine love behind a façade of secrecy, a true leader embraces open and honest dialogue. The Rebbe's directness in addressing the scholar's question exemplifies this principle, ensuring that the guidance offered is transparent, sincere, and capable of facilitating personal growth.
We also find guidance in the book of Leviticus, where we are instructed: "You shall not hate your brother in your heart; you shall surely rebuke your neighbor and not bear sin because of him" (Leviticus 19:17). This commandment reveals the importance of rebuking others when necessary, with the intention of guiding them toward a path of righteousness. A good leader possesses the courage to offer direct rebuke for the betterment of their community. The Rebbe's directness, coupled with his love and concern for the scholar's growth, aligns with this fundamental Torah directive.
Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) teaches us to seek mentors and acquire friends who can guide us on our spiritual journeys. In Pirkei Avot 2:4, we read: "Make for yourself a mentor, acquire for yourself a friend." This teaching emphasizes the significance of finding mentors who can provide direct advice and constructive critique. A mentor's role extends beyond merely offering encouragement; they challenge us to confront our weaknesses and work towards improvement. The Rebbe's direct response to the scholar's question aligns perfectly with this principle, serving as a guiding light on the path of personal growth.
Further insight can be found in Maimonides' Mishneh Torah, specifically in Hilchot Deot 6:7. Maimonides highlights the importance of receiving criticism and rebuke with love, teaching us not to resent those who offer guidance. A good leader demonstrates this virtue by providing direct feedback while maintaining a compassionate and caring approach. The Rebbe's directness, coupled with his love for the scholar's spiritual advancement, embodies this principle of acceptance and growth.
A leader who embraces open communication, constructive criticism, and genuine care for the growth of their followers creates an environment conducive to personal and spiritual advancement.
The Rebbe's directness, infused with love and concern, exemplifies the qualities of effective leadership. Let us strive to incorporate these teachings into our own lives, fostering growth and unity within our communities. May we be inspired by the Rebbe's example and cultivate a directness that stems from a place of authenticity and a genuine desire to uplift those around us.